What to do when you see strays in winter?
While it can be tempting to immediately take stray cats to a shelter, it may be best to remember that for many strays the outdoors is there home. Unfortunately, many shelters are not humane and taking them to one, especially if the shelter is not a “no-kill” shelter, can be worse than leaving them outdoors. I find it best to first consult your local vet to see their recommendation. For example, my local vet recommended that I not take the cats to a shelter due to poor conditions but to instead follow these tips:
Providing extra food and water
Extra food in a cat’s belly won’t just keep him or her warm, but may also help them to conserve energy. Wet food is ideal because it is easy to digest, allowing the cat to conserve his energy in fighting the cold. Fresh water is also important to help ensure the cat maintains good levels of hydration. Because of the cold temperatures, try to remember to refresh their food and water at least twice daily to ensure the food and water has not frozen over. If you have insulated or heated food bowls, even better!
Provide a warm shelter
Building a makeshift shelter for a cat is easier than you may think! Cats don’t need a particularly big shelter either. Big shelters make it easy for the heat to disperse so ideally your shelter should be smaller in size depending on how many cats you intend to stay in it. Some other tips for a shelter include:
- Amazon has a ton of insulated cat shelters to choose from at all budgets or you can DIY. In any case, make sure the shelter you use is above ground and level.
- One popular method for a makeshift shelter is cutting a hole 6 inches in diameter in the side of a Rubbermaid plastic bin. Here are some links to our favorite DIY methods.
- Use pet safe straw or heated pads to insulate the shelter. Try to avoid using paper, blankets or towels because when wet, these items will just absorb moisture and make the shelter colder, not warmer.
Help Keep the Area Dry and Warm
Help keep the area around the shelter and walkways clear of snow. Especially around the entry way as you wouldn’t want the cats to get trapped inside or outside of the shelter.
Safety Tips to Keep in Mind
Before driving, be sure to check underneath your car and around your tires for animals! Animals are known to hide there during the winter in an effort to stay warm. Another important tip to keep strays safe is to be careful of antifreeze and other chemicals you may use to melt snow. If cats or other animals lick these chemicals from their paws, it can be very toxic and dangerous. Instead, consider using pet safe alternatives.